Saint Cheese

December of 1998 was a very windy month in the Santa Barbara area. The wind knocked down a few tree branches during that month and on some occasions the county workers had to close down some streets for a few hours while they cleaned up the mess the wind had left behind.

At the time I was living in Summerland, a small sea-side town of some 1,500 people, located just a 10-minute drive south of Santa Barbara on Hwy. 101. The apartment I was renting there was actually the back half of a house whose façade was facing the freeway. My half of the house was facing the hills in the back, where it was usually very quiet.

On one particularly windy night that December, I came home at around 7:00 PM and, as usual, parked my car in my private parking space. I always parked my car frontward, leaving the front bumper just a few inches away from the wooden fence at the bottom. There was another wooden fence by the driver side of the car and by the passenger side there was one of the house’s walls. Both wooden fences were about two meters high and were framed with beams that looked rather heavy.

The wind was blowing very hard that night, to the point of bending those two fences in the direction it was blowing. There was a third wooden fence encircling the property, which extended beyond the house to enclose the small garden beside it as well. That fence was about one and a half meters high and it looked much lighter than the other two, but it was bending much more noticeably than anything else under the force of the wind.

I went inside my place and turned on the lights in the living room. Then I turned on the TV and took my hat, my scarf and my jacket off. During those days I was still into watching CNN every once in a while, so I switched the TV to that channel. As I turned my eyes away from the TV, I saw through the living room window that the trees outside were taking a real beating from the wind.

I also saw that the fence encircling the property was very strained under the force of the wind and at times it looked like it might break and fall on the ground. "Jeez!" I said to myself, "this is truly a windy night," but I was not scared or anything of that sort. On the contrary, I was actually in good spirits.

I have always liked windy days and nights because of the feeling of freedom they bring out in me. This feeling of freedom has everything to do with my early teenage days and the end of the school year in El Salvador, which used to be sometime in September. During those years we always had winds in October, so I grew accustomed to associating the wind with the idea of not having to go to school and with the feeling of freedom and happiness that that entailed.

So there I was, standing in my living room, feeling somewhat excited about the windy situation, switching my attention from the CNN anchorwoman to the wind blowing outside to my pleasant recollection of my early high school years, when I suddenly thought this would be a perfect night to have some fruit-stuffed Brie en Croute.

The fruit-stuffed Brie en Croute I was thinking about is a circular piece of Brie cheese about four inches in diameter and a little over one inch thick, stuffed with slices of canned cherries and berries and covered in a crust of slightly under-baked bread. You could have this type of cheese at room temperature right out of the counter if you so wished, but it tastes much better after warming it up in an oven for a couple of minutes.

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